Aug 30, 2013
Western Michigan 3, Northwestern 2
Read Fieldhouse Kalamazoo, Mich. Attendance: 818
Box Score | Box Score
KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Last season the Northwestern Wildcats were one of the last teams in the country to play a five-set match, but in 2013 they checked it off the list right away. In their first match at the Holiday Inn-West Bronco Classic Friday, the Wildcats fell to Western Michigan, 3-2 (18-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20, 15-11).
Northwestern claimed the first two sets Friday night, but the home team was undeterred as it reeled off victories in three-straight sets to pick up its first victory of the season.
"Anytime you compete, you want to win the match," said NU head coach Keylor Chan. "We did some nice things out there at times, but all credit goes to a fine Western Michigan team that wouldn't back down tonight from a fight. We'll flush this one out of our minds in a hurry and get back at it against two more tough opponents tomorrow."
The Wildcats got off to a quick start in the first set as they battled to a 25-18 victory. NU freshman Kayla Morin wasted little time getting involved in the action during her first collegiate match as she buried a kill on her first chance for Northwestern's first point of the season. The 'Cats would never trail the Broncos in the premiere set. As a team, NU played nearly mistake-free volleyball as they committed only two errors on 24 swings for an attacking percentage of .458 in the first.
The second set was back-and-forth with the teams splitting the first 30 points of the frame. Western Michigan went on a brief 4-1 run to take a three-point lead, but the Wildcats never let the foe out of sight. The Broncos eventually ran their lead to 23-20 before NU ripped off four points in a row to secure the lead once again. Stephanie Holthus banged out a pair of kills during the run, sandwiched around a kill from Katie Dutchman and an ace by Caroline Niedospial. The Broncos did themselves in with an attacking error to give their grateful visitors set point and a 25-23 triumph.
Northwestern was unable to seize the momentum gathered from its exciting comeback in the second frame as the teams returned to the floor for the third set. Western Michigan raced out to a 14-4 lead and never looked back. Junior Yewande Akanbi came in off the bench and provided a nice spark as she registered three kills and a block while the Wildcats climbed to within four. Following a timeout, WMU went on an 8-2 run to close the set, 25-15.
The two sides continued to trade blows in the fourth set when WMU asserted itself with a 9-5 run when the score was even at 10 points apiece. Akanbi delivered a kill to pull her team to within three, but that was as close as NU would could in the frame, falling by a score of 25-20.
Western Michigan ran out to another fast start in the decisive fifth game. Western Michigan scored five of the first six points before Northwestern clawed back. Setter Hannah Crippen snuck a dump over the net before Morin delivered her eighth kill of the night to knot the score at 9-9. Following a timeout, WMU scored the next three points and fought off a late rally by the 'Cats to win the set, 15-11, and claim the match, 3-2.
Holthus led the Wildcats with 18 kills, while Dutchman was also in double figures with 11 and added five blocks. Crippen handed out a career-high 44 assists and chipped in with eight digs. Niedospial led Northwestern with 14 digs, just ahead of Morin, who had 13. Another player making her collegiate debut, Maddie Slater, had six blocks, a kill and an assist for Northwestern.
WMU's Stephenee Yancy led all players with 19 kills Friday, while libero Lena Oliver had 24 digs.
The Wildcats will return to Read Fieldhouse Saturday morning to face Oklahoma at 9 a.m. CT. The Sooners knocked off NU's second opponent of the day, Milwaukee, in straight sets in the tournament's opening match Friday. NU will face the Panthers later in the day at 4 p.m.
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